Tuesday night, along about the fifth or sixth inning of the Cubs game I started seeing baseball friends all over social media commenting on pitcher blow-ups around the league. I didn’t think much of it. Baseball is a game of variance, and it’s not uncommon for an ace or two to lose it once or twice over the course of the season. Besides, in the game I was watching it really looked like the Cubs bats had taken a vacation as they struggled to score runs against Patrick Corbin for the second time in 2023.
But that’s how history sneaks up on you sometimes. You’re right in the middle of it with no idea what is about to transpire before it surrounds you from all sides.
The Cubs 17-run onslaught against the Nationals might have begun with a whimper, but it ended with a huge bang as they joined 11 other teams last night who scored 10+ runs. According to the great Sarah Langs that’s tied for the second most teams to score 10+ runs all-time:
12 teams have scored 10+ runs today— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) July 19, 2023
that’s tied with 5/30/1884 for 2nd-most on a single day all-time, behind only:
Yes, you read that correctly. The Cubs contributed to a night of MLB offense that no one has seen in well over 100 years. It was a baseball run extravaganza so exceptional it did not happen at all in the 1900s — you have to go back to 1894 to find a day where more teams scored 10+ runs (and wildly, later that week 10 teams scored 10+ runs — 1894 was quite the run environment). The last time 12 teams scored 10+ runs was in 1884.
But it gets even more interesting than that, because the Cubs are one of only two teams who scored 10+ on all of those days.
One of my absolute favorite parts of baseball is the way we can track the history of the game back over the decades and centuries. One of the reasons I’m a Cubs fan despite MLB putting not one, but two, teams closer to me via expansion when I was growing up in Utah is the ability to track my favorite team over the ages. Sometimes that tracking is painful, for example, 108-year championship droughts.
However, every now and again that tracking is joyous — days like today, where I can barely contain my joy that with their unexpected 17-run performance last night the Cubs ensured they were one of only two teams in history who participated in all three of those remarkable run-events listed above (As an aside, they also scored 10+ on the 10-team one I referenced).
This gets a little tricky to walk through, due to franchise lineages and the ways the game has changed over the past 140 years, but come with me down a historic baseball rabbit hole that would make Alice proud for a minute.
There were 12 teams who scored 10+ runs yesterday, of those teams only five who can trace their lineage back to where they were playing in what we considered MLB to be in 1884. Those teams are the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Let’s go team by team:
The Dodgers were playing under various Brooklyn monikers on all three of those days, specifically the Bridegrooms and the Atlantics. They did not score 10+ runs in any of them until last night.
The Cincinnati Reds put up 13 runs on July 4, 1894, but only six on May 30, 1884. Not quite there for the purposes of this exercise.
The Giants were also active on all of those days as both the New York Giants and the New York Gothams. They came very close to running the table here, scoring 12 runs in game two of a double header on July 4, 1894, but just missing with only nine runs in a loss to the 12-run Providence Grays on May 30, 1884.
Which leaves us with the only two teams with long enough histories and lively enough bats on all three of these days to participate in all off these events.
The Atlanta Braves trace their founding back to Boston in 1871. The Boston Beaneaters played two games on May 30, 1884, scoring 11 runs against the Philadelphia Quakers before dropping a 5-1 contest against the New York Gothams. They also played a doubleheader on July 4, 1894 winning the first game against the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-4 before dropping the next game 11-13.
Which brings us to our Cubs. The only team to not only score 10+ runs on these days, but to score 10+ runs in EVERY game they played on those days. The Chicago White Stockings played a doubleheader against the Detroit Wolverines on May 30, 1884. They won both contests 11-10 and 12-2. On July 4, 1894 they played a doubleheader again, this time against the Philadelphia Phillies. They won the first game 16-10, but fell just short in game two, dropping what I can only imagine was a heartbreaker 11-12. But they saved their best for last, setting the standard in last night’s Runapalooza with a league leading 17-runs on the greatest night for offense in modern baseball.
A friend of mine likes to say that you’ll always see something new at a ballgame if you know where to look. Last night the bats woke up just in time to ensure they’d remain in the history books as the most explosive offense in the history of baseball’s most explosive offensive days.